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Posted 16 December 2009

Cambridge Companion to controversial Irish dramatist, JM Synge edited by UCD academic

In 1907, John Millington Synge’s third play, The Playboy of the Western World caused riots in the Abbey Theatre and brought his work to the attention of the wider world. Two years later, in 1909, Synge passed away - aged just 38. With a relatively small corpus of work, Synge was to become one of the most influential and controversial dramatists of the twentieth century.

In the recently published Cambridge Companion to JM Synge, edited by Dr PJ Mathews from the UCD School of English, Drama and Film, fourteen leading academics offer analyses of Synge’s works, and reflect on his engagements with the Irish Language, the processes of decolonisation, gender, modernism and European culture.

Director of the Abbey Theatre, Fiach Mac Conghail introduces UCD Professor and Irish playwright, Frank McGuinness, who officially launches the Cambridge Companion to JM Synge at the Abbey Theatre 11 December 2009.


“One of the most palpable measures of his enduring appeal is Synge’s obvious and lasting imprint on the work of succeeding generations of Irish playwrights,” says Dr Mathews.

“He burst on to the scene in 1903 when his first play, The Shadow of the Glen, caused a stir among audiences and critics alike during its opening run in Dublin.”

“Over the next two years he produced another two plays: Riders to the Sea (1904), which is considered to be one of the greatest one-act plays in the history of modern drama; and The Well of the Saints (1905) which celebrates the imagination and heroism of the dissident who refuses to be coerced into conformity at the behest of the moral majority.”

Followed by the Playboy of the Western World (1907), The Tinker’s Wedding (1907), and Deirdre of the Sorrows (staged posthumously in 1910), this completes Synge’s canon of plays.

Before his early death, he also left a small body of prose which includes The Aran Islands (1907), an extraordinarily rich compendium of travel essays, collected under the title In Wicklow, West Kerry and Connemara, and a collection of poetry (1909).

The Cambridge Companion to JM Synge edited by Dr PJ Mathews offers an introduction to the entire range of Synge’s work.


(Produced by UCD University Relations)


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Cambridge Companion to controversial Irish dramatist, JM Synge edited by UCD academic